This was written by Caroline Rutledge Armijo of Greensboro, North Carolina. Caroline was featured in The Story We Want, The Climate Listening Series:
While Moms Clean Air Force members were protesting Scott Pruitt’s tenure, representatives from Appalachian Voices traveled to Arlington, VA to speak for three North Carolina mothers, who are opposed to the EPA’s Proposed Rollback of the Federal Coal Ash Rule. The 2015 rule was already the weakest regulatory option, which was written to benefit utilities, states and recyclers. Now those minimum standards are at risk of being abolished. And time is running out as comments are being collected through April 30th.
As a mother, I am particularly concerned about the elimination of the health protections of children. I was sick as a child living in Stokes County, I had constant respiratory problems until I moved away to college. So I empathize with all of the families who face the host of illnesses associated with poor air and water quality. I am also concerned about the rising trend of obscure cancers impacting children in groups around many coal ash communities in North Carolina – brain and blood cancers around Belews Creek, thyroid cancer around Marshall, and ocular cancer in Huntersville. The amount cancer in our coal ash communities is not normal.
Now it seems President Trump is giving the fossil fuel companies and polluters exactly what they want by weakening or eliminating the safeguards in the federal coal ash rule. Those important safeguards are supported by sound science and common sense, but industry and Trump are putting put polluter profits ahead of our children’s health. Under the proposed rollback, upon industry’s request, many of provisions of the 2015 rule would be weakened.
Earthjustice ranks the following changes to the Federal Coal Ash Rule of greatest concern:
- Allows Weaker Groundwater Protection Standards and Removes Children’s Health Protections
- Makes Toxic Cleanups of Groundwater Contamination Discretionary
- Eliminates the Requirement that Leaking Unlined Ponds Install Liners or Close
- Removes the Requirement For Polluters To Respond Immediately To Coal Ash Spills
- Eliminates the Requirement to Close Coal Ash Ponds that Fail Safety Standards
- Allows Coal Ash Dumps to Continue to Operate in Dangerous Locations
- Allows Political Appointees to Decide if a Cleanup Is Adequate or Even Required
- Shortens the Post-Closure Care Period and Lets Polluters Off the Hook
- Removes the Requirement to Post Compliance Data, Leaving Citizens in the Dark
When Margaret Talbot came to visit Belews Creek, NC last fall as part of her research for her recent story “Scott Pruitt’s Dirty Politics” that published in the April 2nd issue of The New Yorker. She took an extensive look into Scott Pruitt and provided an overview on how federal rollbacks will directly impact citizens, including those living in Stokes County, NC. The story highlights a faded memory of my own childhood, during which I had severe asthma: “Kids wrote their names in the ash that blanketed their parents’ cars and corroded the paint.” Now I know, I was drawing smiley faces and phrases like “Wash Me” on cars in a blend of toxic heavy metals. This was everyday life for citizens before the scrubbers were added to the coal smokestacks in the early 2000s.
Our community members know that industry self-reports the data requirements defined by regulations. But the data is helpful and critical to our health. We hope that through the data collected, we can figure out how to clean up our communities, so that they may once again thrive. It is important that the regulations remain in place for the sake of our citizens, who are bearing the hidden cost of providing electricity to many.
Why must we wait for a worsening health crisis? For the sake of our families, we need all coal ash impoundments moved away from our rivers and bodies of water to lined landfills, or reused as a raw material, and stop the importation of additional coal ash from foreign countries now.
Caroline Rutledge Armijo is a resident of Greensboro, North Carolina. She advocates for her home community, which surrounds the Belews Creek Steam Station, along with the additional fourteen communities impacted by coal ash in North Carolina. She is the director of The Lilies Project, a National Creative Placemaking Fund grant, which uses art to address coal ash issues. She was featured in The Story We Want, The Climate Listening Series by Dayna Reggero, sponsored by Moms Clean Air Force.